Bodybuilding is an unusual sport in many ways, particularly in the fact that you don’t run, throw anything or run or jump around in any capacity while you’re actually competing. Rather all of the work in bodybuilding takes place beforehand meaning that the result is really a foregone conclusion before anyone has even stepped onto the stage. Bodybuilding is almost more a way of life than a sport which requires intense discipline, a huge work ethic and a helping of good genetics.
A specific set of skills perhaps requires a specific set of people then and perhaps this is why there are so many great bodybuilders from Europe – perhaps it just appeals to the European mindset, or perhaps European physiques are conducive to bodybuilding?
Either way, some of the greatest bodybuilders of all time have come from Europe, particularly during the golden age of bodybuilding. Here then we will look at some of those…
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the name that comes to mind when you think of bodybuilding and it just so happens that he’s from Austria in Europe. To be specific he comes from a small village in Austria called Thal where you can today find a museum where his home used to be. He always had aspirations to travel to America though and was able to use his massive guns as a one way ticket to get out their via bodybuilding legend Joe Weider.
Franco was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend and a fellow immigrant during bodybuilding’s golden age. Specifically Franco came from the small village of Ollolai in Sardinia (Italy) which you can see in the now-famous documentary ‘Pumping Iron’ (where he pulls his Dad’s car into a parking space saving him a parallel parking manoeuvre). Franco was much shorter than Arnie, but made up for it with sheer brawn – he was also a contender in strong man competitions!
If there’s a name that’s more important to bodybuilding than Arnie’s then it has to be that of Eugen Sandow, who is often hailed as the ‘Father’ of modern of modern bodybuilding. Born in what is now Kaliningrad, Russia to a German father and Russian mother, it was in London that he began his career as a strongman (after stage jumping a performance) and eventually refined his craft into what we know today a bodybuilding.
Charles Atlas is perhaps most famous for his comic-book advertisements selling training books and for his ‘dynamic tension’ system of training. He is also a great bodybuilder in his own right though and was originally born as ‘Angelo Siciliano’ of Italy.
Reg Park is another bodybuilder from a bygone era who came from Europe and specifically Leeds in the UK. Perhaps Reg’s greatest claim to fame is the fact that he inspired one Arnold Schwarzenegger to get into the sport – but even before that he was a great competitor in his own right.
While there were many European bodybuilders steeling the limelight back in the golden age of bodybuilding and before, it seems that today the sport is more dominated by American athletes who seem to be more focused on size at the expense of definition. To train like the golden age bodybuilders of yore, check out the Joe Weider training principles they would have all been using.